Time Magazine and Feeling Like a Total Boob

May 18, 2012 5 min read

Now that the dust has settled on the world's most discussed photo of a woman nursing in the history of time — and Time — let me stop and assess my own feelings.

OK, here goes.

I don't care whether you nurse or for how long. I don't care if you co-sleep, wear your baby in a sling, feed your baby chicken nuggets or home school your kids until they are antisocial little freaks who understand algorithms and true love better than I ever will.

Yep. That about covers it. I don't care whether YOU cover it. I'm a live-and-let-nurse kind of girl.

All this mom-on-mom crime is getting kind of dull. Scratch that. It's been dull since I became a mom more than two years ago and began tuning in to the infighting and judging going on in mommy groups and comment sections and social groups across this land. Maybe if I had stronger opinions about the "right" way to parent, I could muster more judgment against those of you not meeting my standards.

However, when I look at other moms who seem happy with relatively normal kids, I think, whatever they're doing, it must be working. Keep on trucking. Or suckling. Sorry.

My mantra when it comes to other people is that if something feels right to them, it's right. This is a total dead-end nonstarter when it comes to me, though. It's just a disaster when I look inward and find that I have very few strong instincts. I don't know what feels right. I wish I were staunch in some direction. I wish I were a super-believer in something when it comes to parenting. I wish I had that kind of conviction in any direction.

If I were on the cover of Time, it would be like one of those bumper stickers on a commercial vehicle: "How's my driving?" All I ever want to ask anyone, all I truly want to know is: Am I doing this right? Because all I know is that I want to be, that I'm dying to compare myself to others just so I can know where I stand. Is my kid in day care too many hours? Too few? Am I too strict? Too lax? If I knew what this was supposed to look like, I could just compare my parenting to the picture in my head and decide it was close enough. However, there is no picture in my head.

Maybe that's why that cover caught fire. What's incendiary is not just the lady and her kid and her boob, but the fact that she and her fellow attachment-parenting types seem to know exactly what they think we should be doing. They have a magical thing, right or wrong, called certainty. They have conviction. We have a primal need to know whether they are right — or just super-serious about how right they think they are. If they are, that means we may not be "mom enough," and that's a fright.

There are so many ways to be a mom today. I know moms who work part time, work full time, have a nanny, have a part-time sitter, home school, send kids to day care, send kids to preschools of every kind and cost, attachment parent, lightly parent, you name it.

If you tell me to do what "feels right" to me, I just need you to tell me exactly what to do, step by step, because I can follow directions better than I can follow my own heart.

We parents should be grateful for all of the options we have these days, and maybe some are. But from all the talk that exploded about that Time cover, I would argue that lots of us are comparing and judging and finger-pointing because it's too complicated to just calmly and peacefully choose a path.

If a lady breastfeeds her super-big kid on the cover of a magazine, we can all look at her and know one thing for sure: That poor kid is going to wish Google was never invented when his high school friends look him up. That much I know for sure.

Teresa Strasser is an Emmy-winning television writer, a two-time Los Angeles Press Club Columnist of the Year and a multimedia personality. She is the author of a new book, "Exploiting My Baby," the rights to which have been optioned by Sony Pictures. To find out more about Teresa Strasser and read features by other Creators Syndicate writers and cartoonists, visit the Creators Syndicate website at www.creators.com.

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